Posted by: Lisa Hill | March 13, 2010

Literary Melbourne, A Celebration of Writing and Ideas, Edited by Stephen Grimwade

The concept of this little book is lovely: Literary Melbourne, A Celebration of Writing and Ideas is, as the title says, a celebration of writing in the state of Victoria and it was published – possibly in a little too much haste – to coincide with Melbourne’s designation as a UNESCO City of Literature.  Literary Melbourne surveys the contribution of writers from the city’s earliest days to the present with short chapters and excerpts from representative periods of time and genre.  It’s profusely illustrated; it includes fiction, non-fiction, poetry, plays, children’s books and crime writing; it has a handy literary map of the city at the back and it’s printed on attractive sepia-toned paper. It would make a nice gift book for someone interested in Australian literature –  but it has some mistakes which ought to be fixed in the next edition if there is one.

The error about which I am most indignant is the cavalier treatment of one of their contributors, who happens to be a dear friend of mine.  Dr. Lurline Stuart is an academic whose annotated edition of His Natural Life by Marcus Clarke makes her the authority on this author, and the editor has not only failed to use her correct title, but has also misspelt her name.   Twice.

The obligatory nod to pre-literate indigenous story-telling includes the artists William Barak (1824-1903), Tommy McCrae (1835-1901) and Vicki Couzens (1960- ) but inexplicably misses the opportunity to share a dreaming story.  The obvious choice would have been to tell the story of Bunjil the Eagle who presides over our city at Docklands…

There are some enticing excerpts but The Pipers of Piper’s Hill by ‘Tasma’ took me a while to find online because at Project Gutenberg Australia it’s called Uncle Piper of Piper’s Hill ; that’s also what it’s called at BibliOz, and it’s what it’s called on the page preceding the excerpt and the index but not in the Extract Credits on p251. Strange, eh?

These quibbles made me wonder if there were other errors, which is a pity.

Editor: Stephen Grimwade
Title: Literary Melbourne, A Celebration of Writing and Ideas
Publisher: Hardie Grant Books in association with the State Library of Victoria, 2009
ISBN: 9781740667890
Source: Personal Library, purchased at Readings, $24.95


  1. I bought this when I was in Melbourne at Christmas, but beyond a quick flick I haven’t really looked at it properly. Sorry to hear it contains a few clangers in editing. As a journo I was taught the mantra “If you want to offend somebody, get their name wrong”.


  2. It seems to me that the pressure to produce too many books too quickly causes a lot of problems! There seems to be an attitude these days is that it doesn’t really matter if there are spelling or grammatical mistakes, readers will buy the books anyway…


  3. Some other links that you should consider in regards to thispublication:


  4. Thank you Robert, the literary map is fantastic! I saw the giant version of it last year when I came in to see the SLV Independent Type exhibition and thought it was terrific – I even asked at the desk if it was ever going to be possible to download it, maybe to a mobile phone so that we could access it when travelling around Victoria. Thanks again
    PS Keep in touch – I’m happy to promote SLV initiatives e.g. the Summer Read and membership of the Foundation:)


  5. I bought a copy of this for the friend I always stay with last time I was in Melbourne. I nearly bought a copy for myself, but didn’t. It was an intriguing book but I knew I wouldn’t have time to read it. I’m not sure if my friend has read it yet.


    • It would be nice if they did a series, wouldn’t it, for each state of Australia? Lisa


Please share your thoughts and join the conversation!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: